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tv   [untitled]    July 23, 2012 11:30pm-12:00am PDT

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john qwong, the department of public works. there's been a lot of discussion from the building department, from the mayor's office and various members of the general public related to the variety of steps that can be taken to mitigate to improve accessibility to entranceways for tenant spaces, for business places. one of the things that the department does is issue what we call minor sidewalk encroachment to adjust the entryways of businesses in order to provide access. usually what is required by law is every accommodation must be made by the tenant or the property owner to make the improvements to achieve the disability access before coming into the public right-of-way. we recognize the city and county of san francisco is a very hillie region and there are some
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fundamental challenges related to the topography. in many cases we have many properties and many businesses on a very hillie street. streets in excess of 5% and in some cases, 15% or 20% where they're to provide an entryway. what we try to do as the department is to work with a design professional to identify ways where they can modify the sidewalk and the curb to provide accessibility to not only the business but also to maintain the path of travel along the salk so someone in a wheelchair can access the sidewalk continually without running into on instructions, such as ramping. in the many years i've worked with the department, we have processed hundreds of these
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encroachment permits a year. quite of bit of them are related to disability access. there were -- there are other encroachments that we do issue that are not related. in terms of process, obviously, this is a situation that the department is usually approached by the business owner or the property owner. usually after the fact where they're in the process of a tenant improvement or it is the result again in many cases of a lawsuit, where they need to do something to make the entry accessible. obviously we work with the design professional and as appropriate we would go back to the building department, as the gentleman from the building department stated, to find an equivalency in this case. possibly a power door adaptor and long additional ramping and
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-- from inside the property and in the public right-of-way too make things work. we do work diligently from our process. we do have a certain priority process if the improvements are specifically to disability access. we would provide some level of priority in those planned reviews. obviously the review process is very technical in nature and i don't want to bother, obviously, members of the board with this. i'm here to answer any questions that you have related to the permits that we issue in this specific case. supervisor mar: so i just wanted to ask, based on a specific example of an ice cream business at 18th and geary that a previous owner made accessibility improvements and
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there was a sidewalk -- an annual fee or a fee that they thought was just a one time and there's a new owner that now is paying this annual fee. it seems that for a small business to make those improvements to make their business more accessbling? . they shouldn't have a disincentive by having an annual fee. why does the department charge the annual fee? what is the rationale for that? >> supervisors, in this case, ok, typically, as i stated earlier, the modification of public right-of-way should be the last resort to the property owner and the business. what usually happens is it's become the place of first resort. i don't want to modify the building entryway, because if i are to build a ramp or do something inside a business,
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inside a building, i'm taking away expensive and useful commercial space potentially. so, again this is one of those things that is challenging in many cases of trying to find on -- an extract balance between what is appropriate and what is not. supervisor mar: ok. thank you. i-don't see any other questions. thank you so much. the last speakers are coming up. the next one is planning department. historic preservation issues, tim fri,e who's a preservation coordinator. >> good afternoon, chair mar, supervisors. i just have a few brief comments but i'd also like to mention adam verrett from our staff is also with us today. he was the project manager from our better streets plan and what we found in our ongoing
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discussions with tenants and property owners, as this issue of disability has become more prominent in their discussions with us is this is not only an area where historic preservation policies need to be considered but the policies established realitied the -- related to the public realm, so he's available to answer any questions you may have at the end. when the historic preservation commission was first formed, one of the first policies they adopted at the request of the mayor's office on disability was a policy that for any city owned property, whether city leased property or any property where a city program or function curse, the preservation commission and the planning department would not begin processing those 3e6r789s or entitlements until the mayor's office on december ability had, in fact, approved the accessibility program. and i can say that this -- that
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policy -- we worked very throwsly with the mayor's office on that policy with the h.t.c. and it's worked very well so far. whether it's any improvements after the memorial complex or most recently at the bayview opera house. aside from that, the department does review a very high volume of administrator front alterationings on an annual basis. most relevant will be around union square and we have everything from large formula retail to very small mom and pop shops. our locally owned businesses around grant street. and one of the tools we most commonly use in discussing what alterations are needed nor an historic building to maintain the architectural character is
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the california building code. this is a building cold we are mandated to use if the property owner does request use of it and the building qualifies as an historic building. it's not as descriptive as other codes. it's a performance-based code and it basically outlines that if reasonable equivalencies can be found within the unique situation of that historic building, those equivalencies can be considered compliant for that building. again, as you -- i mentioned, the issues around historic preservation but also dealing with the public realm. we are able to solve most problems i would say fairly easily. they may not always be a quick over the counter permit. they sometimes do require some negotiation or discussion or
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design revision with the architect and mr. nathan showed one example that i think was fairly example and that was the 24th street front. i believe that building is historic and they changed the slope of the grade, used a strike plate to provide an automated door and slightly widened the door opening was all the well within the participaterers -- parameters of what we review on a regular basis when it comes to accessibility in historic buildings. we also do struggle, though, with property owners or tenants wanting to put more of their ramping or railings within the public right-of-way that does have a negative impact on the public realm and we struggle with them. not wanting to lose leaseable, valuable merchandise space and
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also providing an enjoyable public realm that's not only accessible but something that is consistent with our policies. a few months ago as this issue became more prevalent and we were seeing more questions come about related to these lawsuits. we've alied for a local government grant with the office of historic preservation. we were notified last week we were awarded the grant and the grant is more basically historic storefront design guidelines focused primarily on a.d.a. accessibility. we hope to begin work on this grant effort within the early bring of next year. one of the stipulations of the grant is that we have representations so that we can all together develop a document that everybody has buy in and is
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comfortable implementing in the future. so with that, unless you have any questions, that concludes the planning department's comments at this time. supervisor mar: thank you. any questions? thank you so much. the last speakers are three merchants, susan walia of castro, computers. the merchants a.d.a. committee and lastly. risba from hamburger haven. >> good afternoon, chair mar and supervisors. my name is susan and i co-own and operate castro computer services. we're in our 13th year of business. being one of the last speakers, many of my comments today have already been said by speakers before me. so i'll try not to belabor those comments and i beg your indulgence in hering meow.
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i disagree with mr. qwong's statement that business owners don't want to modify the interior because of losing space or square footage. actually, it's the fact that, due to the wide variety of issues presented when pulling a permit for interior work. making repairs to the interior of the building are far less expensive and expansive. i stand before you to talk about my struggles to get accurate information. i fear retribution from their lawyers as a result of speaking up today. such as asking why they're asking for the casp inspection or other information that those lawyers are demanding. however, i feel it is important to be -- a voice for my community. i have many disabled customers.
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as a microbusiness, we cannot afford to alienate any segment of potential business. also, i could not afford to defend a lawsuit nor could i afford to settle out of court. as a businesswoman and a resident of noe valley, i wouldn't want my reputation to be someone who doesn't care about others. i am on the a.d. committee, whose purpose has been to warn and protect merchnlts in san francisco from the lawsuits that be targeted small business owners. we've walked the streets and gone business to business to help spread the word. this does not mean you'll be forced to close your business. we've focused on readily achievable aequivalent facilitation as well as the casp process.
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all the proactive steps that business can take to make a plan for the larger and more expensive repairs that may be made over time in the future. but to these business owners we are met with sprigs. who are we to be telling the potential business owners about a potential lawsuit? an area of a.b.a. that they don't understand how it relates to them. the laurels don't want to hear about fully achievable or equivalent. so it's hard to be proactive and positive when our government and casp inspections don't quite have a grip on what's going on. in our neighborhood we've had businesses obtain more than one casp inspections. the inspectors aren't sure what's viable in our city of san
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francisco and they're inability to look at the small things laughter -- rather than the large and expensive repairs is frightening. readily asheeverbl differ greatly from the standard of the larger company. the. repairs not being allowed to be made puts the burden back on the landlord. the chasm inspection should be legally enforceable. a landlord and business owner ought to be able to show that certificate to work towards their efforts too becoming a.d.a. compliant. there need to be some industry
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standards. the central, state, and local entities know all about the requirements for compliance, as well as the changes in the law. however, the state has put a targets on the backs of small and microbusinesses and landlords by creating and combrup dating the law without providing the necessary information to the small business levels and by allowing damages to be paid to these litigants. we all know we have to go to city hall for our fix tissues business name. but there isn't a brochure to warn us about a.d.a. appliance. that would be far better than implementation by litigation. there is the presurges that they already have the resources. a at a c. -- ccda committee i
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attended that point was confirmed. for san francisco small businesses this is not the case. here the lack of coordination between the city and state can be seen. the stit executives have no interest. the ccda was delayed for more than a year, waiting for their executive position to be put on hold. if the state has these types of issues, why do the federal entities not see that the small microbusinesses also have their own unique set of challenges. why is it our right when issues are brought to ow -- our attention not met with
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consideration but because of the threat of the lawsuit? because it isn't good enough. i believe that is serial litigants are doing drive-bies in their neighborhoods and looking for the easy targets. it's my opinion that these serial litigants should be invested for -- investigated for harassment. they should also be penalized to build their businesses based on loopholes in the law. if to use -- to offset the costs but not back into their own pockets. it would seem impossible for these plaintiffs to show there is sufficient likelihood that he or she will again be wrong in a similar way because of the quick response i have seen on the part of the business owner to do
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whatever they can at the immediate moment to rectify this situation. the threat of a lawsuit remains. to force a smaller business to settle out of court for these infections is not fair because we cannot afford that. are financials can attest to this. we will gladly make the changes needed if the information was provided as opposed to having to defend the lawsuit or payoff a shady lawyer. the remedy to the barriers is lost. for those businesses that do not have intend to comply, they're the ones who were paying themselves perrot tax and we do not represent that class of business owner. the recent proposal to make a business owners and landlords -- informed of their rights and responsibilities leave out an important group, those already in business and this encompasses the majority of the small businesses throughout the city. what we need are modifications to the federal, state, and local
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laws as well as the unruh act. so the target is removed from our backs. please stop this runaway train. i have a handout that has my basic suggestions from my presentation. thank you. supervisor mar: thank you. the next speaker. >> i am the attorney. i represent a lot of small businesses and consol -- supervisor mar: you are with the committee. >> thank you for the new legistla -- legislation that david chiu is introducing carry two years ago this was not on my radar. some of the businesses came to
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me with these letters that have been getting and there were saying, what is this? i did not know what this was and i am called by newspapers and i go to committee meetings and this thing has grown. i appreciate anything the city can do to help these small businesses. i mean micro-businesses. one owner or to owners. they're not heavily funded. that is why this is an issue. most of the issues were addressed so i will not go over them and make little statements based on what was said. most of the issues are the damages portion in the state law where mr. gong was talking about it was $4,000 per visit. what we see-i only deal with one player and he filed in federal court so we do not get the 90- day protection that was talked about. he usually has three main plaintiffs.
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they did not live in the city, they live in nevada or somewhere and they have a driver and drive into the different neighborhoods and as they noticed it is easy to target these businesses, because we have these slopes and this unique architecture and they are hard to access. the raps your talking about are not achievable in most of the situation because of the slopes. even with a temporary ramp, 1 foot per inch, you still did not have the proper grade. we would have ramps going out into the street which we cannot do. we can i get permanent ramps because either there is a sub- four or there is not enough room. we have curbside service where we put a bill and someone from the store will come and do the transaction, we are reduced to having to do that. the problem is as i said in the state law with the way that damages are abused by this
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attorney because he has -- there will come as a husband and wife and come four or five times. instead of $4,000 is $8,000, or you get $32,000. quex have seen this before, a sign in the front saying where there is some impediment, a sign saying, let us know if you need, we will come out to you. >>is that typically a good defense? >> that is readily achievable. if you can i get a ramp or -- you can get a ramp or gain access to the store through a ramp because of the building code, the barrier is not readily achievable. if it costs $150,000 to do, you will not able to do it. something that is considered a readily achievable solution. in some instances, the slopes
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are too much. supervisor mar: if it is a $5,000 physical fix and you decided that the board -- the doorbell approach -- >> it is usually because you cannot get a ramp on in there. the building code will not allow for it or the slope would be too much for a temporary one. what i would like to focus on is the damages portion. there will come multiple times and the law provides for doubling or tripling of those damages. suddenly your at $96,000 or $100,000 and the state legislature was looking -- i do not think there were looking at a $4,000 penalty would multiplied to this effect. and so then you get a demand. there is a new legislation that is being proposed but it is not addressing the damages. it does assist in terms of the landlord working with the tenants to give them
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notification that they may not be in compliance and it gives a tenant a chance to work together to remove barriers prior to a lawsuit being filed. i think -- anyway, as i was saying, this was not something i dealt with two years ago. it is something i deal with all the time. supervisor mar: if he could wrap up so we could get to public comment. >> i appreciate the efforts, i do not know that it will come at the city level. it breaks my heart to have worked with people who have been in businesses, worked hard for 35 years and have never been sued and all the sudden, i am -- we have 10 businesses in an eight-block radius that have been sued in the last 12 to 16 months. i appreciate the efforts you are making. supervisor mar: think you. the next speaker -- thank you. the next speaker from hamburger
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haven, also an attorney as well. yvonne lee is here from the small business administration and also jane gong. >> good morning. he does not mention that we will do anything at the city level, this was something we would address at the state level, 1186 is not going to do anything in there. i just spoke with someone from dutton's office. the best we could hope for is a provision and lease agreement just as david chiu has recommended to inform and educate business owners that the property has not been casp inspected and to prevent demand
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letters from occurring which is not a san francisco problem, it is a southern and northern california problem. the reason we are all here is we have the same goal, we want to improve disability accessibility to public accommodations and protect small business tenants. we have not made any progress. you have know about this issue for the last four years. david chiu ran on this when he was in the small business commission. we have not moved any steps toward trade we have this hearing year after year. -- he was excited and thought they would make some changes but four years later, we're still in the same position and we have not made any progress. we need to recognize there's limits to what the county can do. we have a lot of problems with the way the ada is implemented and the way the unruh act allows
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stacking damages. we can multiplied per visit. the only thing we can do as a city is to invest in the -- outreach. regina is the only person in charge of outreach and she has an office that has four people including herself. two people who are responsible for the counseling of small businesses when they receive these lawsuits. that is not enough and clearly, that means the city is not taking this seriously. they're setting rigid up for failure. she always -- the have not been successful in any of their attempts. regina has demonstrated this by mentioning in february they had 3000 letters mailed out and how many responses? 3. if you add that up, that is a pointer 1% success rate. we're not getting anywhere on
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that. -- a 0.01 success rate. we're not getting anywhere on that. and we have four people who decided to take upon the 8.5% loan program. i am willing to be part of that, someone can come to me and i will give the funds. that is nothing -- it does not do anything. if you put a fund at 20%, you're not making any progress, we're not making any movement here. the last thing i heard is they had outreach planned but it is not citywide because the city is not taking this seriously enough to put in the resources. she has a grant but it is small and they will do a limited amount. at a certain point we will have to say we have a problem. california is the most serious state where this is occurring. 42% happen in california and san francisco is unique bee